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29 Nov 2019, 13:52
Sven Egenter Freja Eriksen Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Tracking progress of Germany's 2030 climate action package

Germany's government parties present the Climate Action Programme 2030 in Berlin. Photo: Bundesregierung / Bergmann
Germany's government parties present the Climate Action Programme 2030 in Berlin. Photo: Bundesregierung / Bergmann

With its Climate Action Law and the Climate Action Programme 2030, Germany's government coalition has presented a far-reaching climate strategy that is aimed at putting the country on track towards reaching its climate targets. The policy package contains crucial measures such as introducing a price on carbon emissions in the transport and buildings sector but from the onset has also been criticised for lacking ambition and being insufficient to meet climate targets. Follow the debate as well as politicial and legislative progress made regarding the climate package in this regularly updated news overview. [UPDATE adds Bundesrat decision on climate law 29 Nov.]

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For a deep dive into the climate package's origin and the debate around carbon pricing in Germany, take a look at the CLEW dossier Climate cabinet to put Germany back on track for 2030 targets.

29 November

  • Germany’s climate law and national emissions trading system clear last legislative hurdle - The council of federal state governments (Bundesrat) has greenlit Germany’s Climate Action Law and the planned national emissions trading system for transport and buildings, clearing the last legislative hurdle. The Bundesrat also agreed to plans to increase the air traffic tax. As the federal parliament (Bundestag) has already adopted these, the German president can now formally sign all three bills into law. However, other parts of the climate package Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided in September are being held up. The Bundesrat called for setting up the so-called mediation committee with the Bundestag to debate planned tax changes, such as those supporting the energy-efficient modernisation of buildings, increasing the commuting allowance and decreasing the VAT on train tickets.
  • The premiers of Germany's five northern coastal states demand a renegotiation of the controversial 1,000-metre minimum distance rule from residential areas for onshore wind turbines included in the country's climate action package, arguing that it threatened a key industry of the future and national climate targets at the same time.

28 November

  • A leaked draft of the coal exit law, dated 26 November and seen by Clean Energy Wire, includes a chapter on forced hard coal plant shutdowns in case operators do not sufficiently participate in the planned auctions, contradicting an earlier draft. By 2022, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) would create a list with hard coal plants in a sequence mainly based on age, and forced shutdowns would start in 2027. The draft includes several tracked changes and it is unclear, whether these are already agreed by all ministries.

27 November

25 November

  • Manuela Schwesig, Social Democratic (SPD) state premier of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said she did not expect the Bundesrat (council of federal state governments) to greenlight key climate package elements in a vote on 29 November, writes the WirtschaftsWoche. The distribution of costs still needed to be debated, she said. “It cannot be that the municipalities and states lack money for climate action on the ground," Schwesig said. "We will probably have to discuss these issues in the mediation committee.”
  • Daniel Günther (CDU), conservative premier of the northern state of Schleswig Holstein, also called for a “fair distribution of burdens” in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung quoted by Spiegel Online. He said his state will not be able to approve the relevant legislation “for financial reasons alone.”

22 November

20 November

  • Design of Germany's wind power distance rules undecided as opposition to policy grows - Following intense criticism of the German government's planned minimum distance rules for wind power by industry and environmental groups, economy minister Peter Altmaier says the government has not made a final decision on what exactly these rules will mean in practice. The ministry plans to introduce them as part of a legislative package concerning the coal exit. The minister insists he needs to get everyone on board regarding the energy transition and will thus have to make concessions to citizens who oppose wind power expansion. According to media reports, however, there is also opposition against the technology inside Altmaier's own ministry. The Federal Environment Agency said that wind power expansion could grind to a halt with the planned distance rules.

18 November

  • The government cabinet has decided to increase and prolong the buyer's premium for e-cars, as it had announced after a meeting between industry and government representatives in Angela Merkel's Chancellery in early November.
  • The government cabinet also decided a "master plan" for e-car charging infrastructure. It contains measures to ensure the quick development of public and private charging points for up to 10 million electric vehicles by 2030.

16 November

  • Germany's parliament greenlights first major climate law - The German parliament (Bundestag) has decided the country's first major climate law, less than two months after the coalition of chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) agreed to introduce it as part of an extensive climate package to reach 2030 climate targets. The parliament also agreed on the introduction of a CO₂ pricing system for transport and buildings. The laws must now be debated by the Bundesrat, the federal council of state governments.

15 November

  • The environment ministers of all German states rejected a nationwide minimum distance rule for wind turbines from the nearest settlement and said this would send the "wrong signal for the current near standstill in the expansion of onshore wind energy." At a state minister conference, they decided a resolution stating: "In view of the different circumstances (e.g. geography, settlement density) and independent state regulations, they call on the federal government to renounce the nationwide specification of distance regulations."

13 November

  • Opposition parties and industry are criticising the government coalition for pushing climate legislation through parliament too quickly. "The incredible speed is not necessarily conducive and one would wish for a little more time on certain issues," said energy industry association BDEW head Kerstin Andreae at an event on the implementation of the package by Forum für Zukunftsenergien in Berlin. Lisa Badum, climate policy spokesperson for the Green group in the Bundestag, said the truncated process is not just a matter of legislation, but also a societal and structural policy issue. "We need more participation of society, so I find the current process somewhat dangerous,” she said. Martin Neumann, an MP from the pro-business Free Democrats, added that there would likely be greater "need for legislative repair" after such a hasty process.
  • German industry warns government's strict wind power rules threaten climate targets - The economy ministry has sent a legislative package including the draft of a coal exit law to other ministries for coordination. The package also included a draft amendment to the building code which would introduce stricter minimum distance rules for wind turbines to the nearest settlement. These were heavily criticised by industry, NGOs and opposition parties. The rules have also led to a row between responsible ministries, with the environment ministry vowing to "not take part in anything that endangers the expansion targets."
  • The legislative process surrounding key elements of the climate package is progressing. The relevant committees in the federal parliament (Bundestag) have adopted, among other legislation, the climate action law, the legislation to raise the air traffic tax and the act to introduce a CO₂ pricing system for transport and buildingsThe full plenary is scheduled to vote on these drafts on 15 November.

  • The federal cabinet has decided to raise the housing allowance starting in 2021 to compensate low-income households for extra costs associated with the new CO₂ pricing system in transport and buildings. The government says increased heating fuel costs are a larger burden for such households, as they pay a larger share of their income for living costs such as heat.

11 November

  • Church head calls on government to improve climate package – Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), has said the German government’s recent climate policy decisions are not a sufficient answer to climate change and called for improvements, reports the public broadcaster Bayrischer Rundfunk. “Why does the government lag behind society’s growing will to change on such an important topic?,” Bedford-Strohm asked at the EKD’s annual meeting. The government should “use these dynamics in society to significantly improve the climate package.”
  • The federal government’s climate package will lead to fiscal revenue shortfalls in German states which have to be compensated, state representatives said in a debate in the Bundesrat, the council of state governments.

8 November

7 November

6 November

  • A proactive economic policy that embraces the challenges of climate change and the energy transition and provides reliable climate policy will improve the economy's resilience, the German Council of Economic Experts (Wirtschaftsweise) says in its annual report on economic development. The council say the planned carbon pricing scheme in Germany should be made "the focal point of climate policy" that could make many other regulatory measures obsolete if it is "implemented rigorously" and accompanied by a "systematic redistribution" of additional state earnings.
  • German government gets mediocre mid-term marks for climate effort - Energy and climate policy observers grade Angela Merkel's government 3.7 points out of 10 for climate efforts in a mid-term review. Industry experts, researchers and lobbyists say plans for a CO2 price in transport and heating point in the right direction, but added that key issues such as the coal phase-out, lagging renewables expansion and a major climate law remain unsolved and must urgently be tackled in the second half of term. This article presents a collection of assessments. To read an analysis including the government view, click here.

  • The pricing system for the transport and buildings sector planned by the government is not ambitious enough for achieving Germany’s climate targets, the National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) says in a commentary on the climate package. The scientists say the pricing system in principle could be a very effective tool – but there needed to be "a price path that makes visible the seriousness and permanency of this measure" and allows economic actors to adapt accordingly. The academy proposes an initial price of 30 euros per tonne of CO2 by 2020 and to increase it by 10 euros per year until 2023. After that, the price should be linked to that of the EU emissions trading system (ETS) but have a minimum price of 60 and a maximum price of 130 euros per tonne. "This price path would generate higher earnings and thereby allow for more social balancing measures," the scientists say. The Leopoldina also recommends giving the planned external expert panel a strong mandate for controlling emissions reduction and to aim for a "systemic approach" to changing the economy, rather than completing a slew of individual measures.

  • The carbon pricing system for heating and transport fuels planned by Germany's government could prove to be a legal "time bomb" and lead to billions of euros in reclaims if the country's Constitutional Court decides that the levy is unlawful, climate policy research institute IKEM says in a report on the pricing scheme's legal implications.

25 October

  • Opposition parties have strongly criticised the German government coalition’s climate policy package in a first parliamentary debate on key legislative elements, such as the planned major climate action law. The first reading in the Bundestag marks the beginning of parliamentary proceedings on the climate package.

24 October

23 October

  • The federal cabinet has adopted its draft of the National Emissions Trading System for Fuel Emissions Law. The law lays out the details of the planned national greenhouse gas emissions trading system for the transport and buildings sectors – sectors not already covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Environment minister Svenja Schulze said in a press release: “With regard to the CO2 price, I will be very careful to ensure that there is the right climate action effect and the social consequences remain fair. If Germany is not on course in one or the other, then adjustments will have to be made. After all, a CO2 price must be fair not only ecologically, but also socially.”
  • The cabinet also adopted a new building energy draft law (GEG).
  • The German government's fast pace in the legislative procedure around climate policy has left too little time for hearings, 14 associations and organisations from the economic, environmental and trade union sectors have said in an open letter to the federal government. The signatories said they "share the federal government's view that there is an urgent need for action in legislative processes related to climate policy" but warned against giving the impression that hearings were only being held "pro forma".

21 October

  • The government has sent a first draft of the National Emissions Trading System for Fuel Emissions Law to associations for a stakeholder consultation process, meant to give interested groups a chance to comment on and influence the legislation. The law lays out the details of the planned national greenhouse gas emissions trading system for the transport and buildings sectors – sectors not already covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). It stipulates that from 2021 onwards, companies that put fuels into circulation, such as refineries or retailers, will have to buy emissions allowances. There will be fixed prices for the allowances in the early years of the system’s implementation.

17. October

  • The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) said the government’s plan for carbon pricing will not be enough to meet the 2030 emission reduction targets. A higher starting price than the proposed 10 euro per tonne CO2 would help to meet the targets more effectively and to avoid high costs for Germany from the purchase of emission rights. The researchers also found that low-income households face a larger burden than high-income households.

16. October

  • The government adopted several legislative drafts to mould the decisions into tax laws and decided details concerning the design of the planned CO2 pricing system. The draft includes tax deductions for energy-efficient modernisation of buildings, higher tax-deductable allowance for commuters, an introduction of “mobility premium” for low-income commuters, lower VAT on train tickets, higher air traffic tax and possibility for local communities to introduce higher property taxes for wind parks.

14 October

  • The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) have presented a joint assessment of the government’s climate package. The two institutes say that the plan is not enough to reach the 2030 climate targets, criticise the low entry-level price for CO2 emissions in the transport and buildings sectors and condemn the “weak design” of monitoring by an expert commission.
  • The commission's design was also criticised by analysts Johanna Schiele and Hanns Koenig for think tank Dezernat Zukunft. The German government would be well-advised to use the UK’s Committee on Climate Change as a model for setting up the expert commission. Schiele and Koenig called for stronger independence of the experts from the government and the right of initiative to write reports when deemed necessary.

  • North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet (CDU) has called on the federal cabinet to adopt the planned coal exit law by 20 November at the latest, reports the Rheinische Post. This was necessary to be able to adhere to the timetable proposed by the coal exit commission at the start of 2019, said Laschet. Ending coal-fired power produciton is an important part of the government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector, laid out in the Climate Action Programme 2030.

11 October

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has complained that "miserably long planning and licensing procedures" are a major factor for the deficiencies of her country's climate policy. At an event by labour union IG Metall, Merkel said that protracted procedures partially are justified for constitutional reasons but argued that necessary administrative capacities had been reduced in recent years and that the urgency of different projects had not always  been appreciated. Merkel defended her government's decision to opt for an initial carbon price of ten euros per tonne. "Acceptance is always important in a society in transformation," she said, adding that the pricing scheme's effects would became quickly visible in the 2020s.

  • German automotive industry researcher Ferdinand Dudenhöffer has called for a substantial fuel price increase of 20 cents per litre to accelerate the transition towards electric mobility. "Prices at the petrol pump have the greatest effect. Car drivers are confronted with the cost of CO2 every day there," the well-known researcher of the University Duisburg-Essen said in an article by news agency dpa carried by Focus Online. Dudenhöffer says higher fuel prices would address the polluter directly, whereas the German government's approach to support the transition to e-cars with a buyer's premium meant that "everyone – also the 80-year old pensioner – will see their tax money go to those who emit CO2, the car drivers, to encourage them to change”.

  • Reaching Germany’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 will be very difficult, said Lower Saxony state premier Stephan Weil at a discussion on the energy transition in the industry sector in Berlin. Over a 30-year-period, Germany will likely have lowered emissions by about 35 percent by 2020. “If we manage to reduce the remaining 20 percent over ten years, I won’t worry about the rest. But the next ten years will be very difficult, very hard,” said Weil. Reaching the target is “the key sociopolitical issue of the coming ten years”, he added. Weil called the federal government’s climate package “in sum a great step forward”, but criticised that the planned entry-level price for CO2 emissions in transport and buildings is far too low. The plan, therefore, “falls short at a highly symbolic point”, and Weil said he hoped the legislative process would still change this. “No law leaves the parliament the same way it has entered it, and I would be surprised if it were any different with this one,” he said. Weil also criticised that during the past two years the economy ministry has done too little regarding the energy transition. “That was a massive mistake.”

10 October

  • The acting leader of the governing Social Democrats (SPD), Malu Dreyer, has said the climate package's measures "will bring a lot of changes for everyone individually – be it heating, driving or travelling”. Dreyer said even those who are ready to make their everyday lives more climate-friendly could not cope with all measures at once. "If you have to finance a new heating system, you cannot just buy a new and more climate-friendly car," Dreyer said, arguing that this was the reason why the government had chosen a "moderate" entry into carbon pricing. She insisted the climate package would mean "a paradigm change" in German climate policy and that everyone would "have to brace for much bigger things in the next years if we do not manage to make our actions more climate-friendly”.
  • The new head of Germany’s service sector labour union Verdi, Frank Werneke, has criticised the government's climate programme for being "much too hesitant" and not developing "an ecologic steering effect”. Werneke told news agency dpa that the package did not provide for social balance mechanism. "Wealthy people and those with high incomes are being spared once again," Werneke said, arguing that the bulk of expenses would be covered through consumption taxes and levies from the general public. He also criticised that public transport played a much smaller role than electric cars. "I have my doubts if the government's main plan seems to be smothering the country in e-car charging stations."

9 October

8 October

  • The state premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (SPD), has criticised the planned price on carbon emissions of 10 euros per tonne as a "drawback" in the government's climate package. A price equal to that of three or four beers would not be a fitting symbol, Weil said. However, he added that a cautious handling of industrial policy was warranted. "If I say that combustion engines should be gone within ten years, I drive the country's most important industry into a wall. It would be little wonder if a yellow vest movement like in France comes up in Germany as well," he said

7 October

  • The Green Party's leadership has tabled a main motion for the next party conference in November titled "Act now! Measures for a climate-neutral country", in which the party proposes alternatives to the government's "disappointing" climate package. Party leaders say their "radically realistic" plan includes an entry price for carbon emissions of 40 euros per tonne that should be introduced "as an immediate measure" and rise to 60 euros by 2021. Further increases should then be decided by an "independent council" until a joint European solution has been found. In return, the Greens want to substantially lower the electricity tax and introduce an "energy allowance" to avoid social hardships.

4 October

  • CSU steps on the brakes – The Christian Social Union (Bavarian sister party of chancellor Merkel’s CDU) prevented the federal cabinet from adopting the in-depth Climate Action Programme 2030 in a meeting on 2 October, reports Tagesspiegel Background. Alexander Dobrindt, head of the CSU in federal parliament, said time was too short to read the final version. An environment ministry spokesperson said: “As long as it’s decided in cabinet next week [9 October], no harm is done.” The government plans to adopt all relevant legislation in cabinet by the end of the year.

  • The latest draft of the planned in-depth Climate Action Programme 2030 – seen by Clean Energy Wire – incorporates the government’s climate package decisions from 20 September. Contrary to earlier versions, it no longer contains the provision to increase annual wind power expansion targets, but only capacity goals for 2030 (67-71 gigawatt installed capacity, up from about 53.5 GW today).

  • The Fridays for Future protest movement has called the German government‘s climate package decisions from 20 September “a political declaration of bankruptcy” in an open letter to the climate cabinet and party leaders of the grand coalition. “To sell this as a success is a slap in the face for all protesters for effective climate action,” the group writes, highlighting the major global strike on the same day. “Our society is much more progressive in terms of climate action than your federal government and prepared to support the necessary measures.” Fridays for Future calls on the government to fundamentally re-work the climate package, and says “we will protest until you act”. The group has announced it will organise another major global protest on 29 November, days ahead of the start of the UN climate conference COP25 in Chile.

2 October 2019

  • Economic institutes criticise German government’s climate package: In choosing to implement a carbon price for transport and buildings, the federal government has bet on the right instrument in its 2030 climate package, but the planned price for the years 2021-2025 “seems little ambitious,” states the Joint Economic Forecast, published by Germany’s leading economic institutes.
  • The federal cabinet has decided on a supplementary budget to finance the climate action package presented on 20 September. The government expects CO2 pricing in the buildings and transport sectors to bring in 18.8 billion euros by 2023.

  • The government has announced that it will decide the in-depth Climate Action Programme 2030 in a cabinet meeting on 9 October, reports news agency Reuters. That programme will hammer out some details left out of of the climate package announced on 20 September. The ministries were not able to come to an agreement in time for today’s cabinet meeting (2 October), as originally planned, writes Reuters.

  • Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, told Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that she expects the Green Party to offer concrete climate action proposals with a price tag, instead of “simply saying that this is not enough”. The Green Party has been critical of the government’s proposed climate action package, and will have a chance to weigh in during the upcoming legislative process. The Green Party is part of the government coalitions in many German states, and the council of state governments (Bundesrat) has to approve parts of the planned legislation from the government’s climate package.

1 October 2019

  • The German government expects CO2 pricing in the buildings and transport sectors to bring in 18.8 billion euros by 2023 for its climate action package. Finance minister Olaf Scholz wants to ensure the package's implementation through a supplementary budget to be approved by the federal cabinet on 2 October. A main part of the draft budget, seen by Clean Energy Wire, is an economic plan for the country's Energy and Climate Fund, which is set to grow from 6.1 billion euros this year to 11.75 billion in 2023. Revenues from the European trade of CO2 allowances in energy and industry (EU ETS) are expected to raise an additional 14 billion euros, according to the draft.

  • The targets for renewable power consumption and wind energy expansion on land set by the German government's new climate action package require a significant boost, NGO WWF has said in a position paper.
  • German public transport consultancy kcw welcomed that the climate action package emphasised shifting motorised road traffic to rail, public transport and bicycles in an assessment of the plan. However, it criticises a lack of a concrete goal for the modal shift and the connected climate effect. Thus, it is impossible to examine whether or not the proposed measures are enough to reach 2030 climate targets, writes kcw.

30 September 2019

  • The deputy parliamentary group leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, Andreas Jung, has called for a carbon price cap of 180 euros per tonne by 2030, news agency dpa reports in an article carried by WirtschaftsWoche. "I think we should strive for the scientifically determined price of 180 euros per tonne of CO2," said the politician who had a leading role in negotiating the climate package for his party. Climate policy could only be successful by "planting seedlings that gradually grow bigger”, Jung added. According to the article, a CO2 price of 180 euros would translate into an increase of fuel prices of about 50 cents per litre. In its current climate strategy programme, the government has planned a gradual rise of carbon prices from 10 to 35 euros per tonne between 2021 and 2025 and capped the price at 60 euros in 2026. The cap prevailing after that year will be decided on in 2025, according to the programme.
  • The German government's climate package represents a "classic example of political compromise" and also illustrates the country's somewhat inconsistent attitude towards climate action, Deutsche Bank Research writes in an analysis of the 2030 programme. "Whilst a majority of Germans support more climate protection, only a few are willing to shoulder the financial burdens," the analysis says, concluding that the package as it stands ultimately will not bring about the "major shift away from established consumption patterns and production processes" that is needed to reach Germany's long-term emissions reduction goals.

27 September 2019

  • Most Germans say the government's climate action plan doesn’t go far enough in terms of emissions reduction, polls by public broadcaster ZDF show. Fifty-three percent of all respondents said the package is insufficient, 20 percent answered the climate package is enough to address the challenges, and 13 percent said it went too far.

26 September 2019

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservatives insist on a low initial price tag for CO2 emissions to secure public acceptance for the government's new climate strategy. In the first parliamentary debate on the package unveiled Friday, parties traded blows over the effectiveness and economic consequences of the Climate Action Programme 2030. Environment minister Schulze conceded that the entry price was set "very cautiously."

  • Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) are prepared to raise the climate package's initial CO2 price. Following widespread criticism that the currently envisaged starting price of 10 euros per tonne in the transport and heating sectors was much too low to have any significant effect, acting SPD leader Malu Dreyer suggested her party would agree to double the initial price tag for emissions.
  • The climate action package will be a "major legislative task", according to an analysis by the German Energy Agency (dena) and law firm BBH. The analysis assesses all 66 measures of the climate package, outlining which laws, ordinances and standards would need to be changed and concludes that in many cases, "the measures are associated with complex legislative procedures and will require extensive political coordination”.

25 September 2019

  • German environmental NGOs have used the publication of the latest report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the ocean and the cryosphere to renew their criticism of the government's new strategy for emissions reduction. The organisations said the 2030 climate package announced on Friday was a case in point for policymaking that does not fully appreciate the gravity of environmental challenges the world population is facing.
  • Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her government's climate policy against criticism by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Merkel told journalists in New York that while Thunberg's speech at the UN Climate Action Summit had been "rousing", it did not sufficiently express the way in which technology and innovation open up opportunities to achieve the objectives.

24 September 2019

  • The heads of Germany's environment agency UBA and energy agency dena doubt the effectiveness of the government's comprehensive climate policy package to help the country meet its 2030 emissions reduction target.

  • Higher energy efficiency, a "paradigm shift" in the circular economy, innovative production processes, as well as carbon capture and usage or storage could make Germany's industry CO2-neutral by 2050, but the government's new climate strategy does not provide the necessary incentives, according to environmental NGO WWF.

23 September 2019

  • The future of Germany's much criticised climate strategy hangs in the balance as the Green Party vowed to amend the package, and experts warned legal hurdles threatened the government's concept for a CO2 price.

20 September 2019 - Germany's government introduces 2030 Climate Action Programme

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